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Wednesday, 3 August 1904

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member would not be in order in discussing it.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - If it were in order, no subject would give me more pleasure.

Mr Mauger - We shall have an opportunity to-morrow.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - No doubt, I shall have an opportunity on another occasion of explaining to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports how this taxation has ' been imposed, just now, however, I am not making any complaint on that score. I am now endeavouring to show that NewSouth Wales is long-suffering - that that State has shown great kindness, and should be treated with justice.

Mr Groom - New South Wales has been treated as fairly as has any other State in the Union.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - New South Wales expects to be justly treated.

Mr Groom - Hear, hear !

Mr HENRY WILLIS - And honorable members will show by their vote whether they act fairly towards New South Wales.

Mr Mauger - That would be a wrong inference !

Mr HENRY WILLIS - New South Wales will be able to judge, by the vote given, whether the other States, through their representatives, are acting justly towards her.

Mr Mauger - I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in imputing injustice to any member of this House who may vote against his particular idea? My point is that the honorable member is inferring that if honorable members do not vote for the particular spot which he favours New South Wales will be treated with injustice.

The CHAIRMAN -I fail altogether to draw that inference from what the honorable member for Robertson said. If the honorable member had made a direct statement to that effect, it would have been out of order ; but he has not done so. The honorable member for Robertson is, I take it, speaking altogether with regard to the future.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I wish to bring the Committee back to a sense of their responsibility in regard to keeping faiththat is my point - with New South Wales.

Mr Mauger - Who would dispute that position ?

Mr HENRY WILLIS - From the honorable member who interjects I claim justice under the Constitution. I ask the honorable member, as a representative of the people of the great city of Melbourne, to do justice to New South Wales, and not to vote in favour of a site not acceptable to the people of that great State. The honorable member ought not to give a vote which he knows will incense the people of the mother State.

Mr Mauger - How am I to know that ?

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I give the honorable member credit for possessing some common sense, and for knowing that the people of New South Wales, when they entered the Union, would never have agreed to the limit of 100 square miles, if, in the next breath, they had been informed that the Federal territory would probably be selected on the borders of Victoria. Under such circumstances would the people of New South Wales not have said: - "You wish us to cede to Victoria 100 square miles at least of our territory for the purposes of a site over 100 miles closer to Melbourne than to Sydney. In that there would be no ' compromise - no concession to New South Wales." Having induced the people of New South Wales to enter the Union, if honorable members desire to satisfy their scruples and their pride in the chief city of Australia, they ought to select a site such as the people of the State anticipated. In the western part of New South Wales there is a site which answers all requirements, and which would be acceptable to the people of that State. During the discussion a great deal of attention has been devoted to the centrality of CarcoarGarland, Canobolas, and Bathurst, situated as they are just beyond the limit of 100 miles. Much has been said by those opposed to the settlement of the question as to the impossibility of conserving in these areas water sufficient for the requirements of a city. We know, however, that with the large water supply of the CarcoarGarland district there will be no difficulty whatever in conserving sufficient for artificial lakes, reservoirs, and for domestic and other purposes. It is stated by Mr. Wade, in his report, that a great deal of water would, after making provision under these heads, be available for irrigation purposes. The rainfall is 39 inches, and the altitude of the site is 2,270 feet above sea level, as contrasted with 1,500 feet at Tooma. Among other requirements in the site of a Federal Capital are a salubrious climate and a rarified atmosphere; and we can find the very finest atmosphere and climate, a sufficient rainfall, and magnificent soil, with building material equal to any in Australia, in this western district of New South Wales. At Carcoar-Garland, Millthorpe, Orange, or even at Wellington, there is a magnificent rainfall - rivers running through the territory, and land which will produce 40 bushels of. wheat to the acre. I should like to read for the information of honorable members what was said by Mr. Oliver in regard to this western part of New South Wales: -

Although, perhaps, the water resources of Canobolas are inferior, in regard both to catchment area and head for gravitation, to those of the Upper Campbell's River for Bathurst, yet there is evidence to support the conclusion that they are fairly sufficient for an assumed population of 40,000, and would be capable, by auxiliary storage, of supplying a still greater population. Moreover, the superior rainfall of Canobolas (as much as 14 inches greater than that of Bathurst) becomes an important factor when comparing the catchments of Canobolas and Bathurst; while the same may be said of the facilities possessed by this site for providing an ample water supplyfor large bodies of workmen, and others employed on buildings, &c. The climate of Canobolas, from the superior altitude of its site, and its position on the fall of the plateau towards the Great Western Plains, is preferable to that of any western site, and I believe that the comparatively high rainfall of Canobolas is climatically beneficial, and in no way injurious to health.

A very long report was written by the late Mr. Oliver upon the suitability of the western district for a Federal Capital. He says : -

In regard to land values, the figures appended show the estimated cost of absolute resumption of the western sites as originally proposed : -


That, I think, is a refutation of those arguments used against the quality of the land in that district. There is land estimated as worth£6 per acre at Millthorpe, and it is grand agricultural soil, which will produce wheat such as the honorable member for Grey has seen in his own district. Then we are told by Mr. Oliver that the cost of the site would be , £188,160, which is -very much less indeed than the cost in the Canobolas district. When we go a little further west, still within the fifty-miles radius, we find that Mr. Oliver, in regard to Wellington, says: -


Here is a very large area of Crown land that should be very acceptable to the people of Victoria, who are saying so much about the cost of the proposed Federal site. The lands outside the Crown lands area are valued at £3 per acre. The land in the Wellington Valley is magnificent; it is a very rich chocolate soil. The yield of grain there is very much superior to anything in South Australia, or to the average in Victoria. One notable fact is that grain grown there has taken the gold medal in London for its superior quality. If honorable members sitting behind the Government wish to obtain a large area for closer settlement, there is no part of New South Wales that is more suitable than the district which I have the honour to represent, say, within the area described by Mr. Oliver at Wellington, or the country a little further on towards Werris Creek, going up to Cobbora, or the land between Cobbora and Dubbo. Most of that land is a short distance beyond the fifty-mile radius. So that in selecting a western site, we should have an almost unlimited area of first-class land surrounding the Federal city. I do not know of any part of Australia where we could obtain such a large area of land so suitable for settlement, and which from its superiority in quality should be so acceptable to the Commonwealth. It will be noticed, from Mr. Oliver's description, that a large area is what is called Church and School Land. It has not been taken up for settlement, because it was reserved for a specific purpose.

Mr Groom - Is it still Crown land?

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Yes, it is described as Church and School Land, though it is now held under lease.

Mr Groom - It is not held by trustees for church purposes?

Mr HENRY WILLIS -No. The Church and School Lands Act of thirty or forty years ago disposed of all the revenues, and gave a pension of ,£300 a year to the clergymen who were interested, for which they surrendered their claims. But the lands are now held under lease, arid are available for the purposes of a Federal Capital.

Mr Brown - They became Crown lands after the passing of the Act which the honorable member has mentioned.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The fact that they are designated Church and School Lands is of some value, because it goes to show that they might have been taken up for settlement except for their reservation for a particular purpose. Land that was reserved for church and school purposes in the early days is, as honorable members may well suppose, very superior indeed, considering that the church (hen wielded such influence in the management of affairs at head-quarters. I should like also to direct attention to the report concerning the Carcoar-Garland site. Mr. Oliver estimates the cost of absolute resumption -

For the whole area, including Church and School lands, but excluding town of Carcoar - :it £200,00 ; or, at ^3 per acre, for 50,000 acres, outside municipal boundaries, and £35,000 for lands within those boundaries, £185,000.

Those figures allude to the site which has been specially selected as representing the western district. There is no reason whatever why honorable members should not consider the claims of any site in this district that would be equally as good and as convenient as that of CarcoarGarland. Canobolas is a most excellent site, and one that is deserving of considerable attention; but I should particularly like to say something for Wellington. Honorable members have referred to a considerable extent to Tooma, where the altitude runs from 1,200 feet up to 1,500 feet. But there is a much finer climate in the district of Wellington. Close at hand is Mount Arthur, which, as may be supposed, was named after the Duke of Wellington. The mountain overlooks the Town. The situation is not at all unlike that cif Montreal, where Mount Royal, from which the nairne of the city is derived, is close to it. There is a magnificent range of hills around the site. Perhaps that is the reason why it was not seriously considered by Mr. Oliver. It was not that the soil was inferior, or that the water supply was not adequate, but that the altitude within the town was not deemed by him to be commendable. But if climate is to be considered, there is a very much finer climate in the district of Wellington than at Tooma. The people there are healthy ; disease is not prevalent, and persons with weak lungs are sent there because of the salubrity of the climate. Major Barton wrote a report setting forth the case for Wellington, and I should like to say something about it, because this document throws some light upon other sites, and also because it affords information of a most acceptable character in the interests of those who are advocating the selection of a site in the western district. Mr. Oliver says -

The climate of Wellington is described by a very good judge, Mr. C. H. Barton, as one of the healthiest climates in the. world, though for four months in the year the heat is very great.

But it is not anything like so great as the heat at Adelaide, and I suppose that there is no finer climate in Australia than that of Adelaide.

For a period of eighteen years, the records of the Government Astronomer, show that during the Summer quarter, the mean temperature is 73'3 ; during the Autumn quarter, 53-3 ; during the Winter quarter, 497 ; and during the Spring quarter, 68 deg. The greatest recorded temperature reached 105*9, and the lowest 19.

Then, with respect to the rainfall, the report says -

The quarterly rainfalls during the same period are very regularly distributed, being 5'83, 6'30, 5*58, and 6"84 inches, showing for the year a rainfall of very nearly 25 inches.

It has to be remembered that that rain falls upon magnificent soil, at regular periods of the year, when it is most wanted.

The altitude of Wellington is 995 feet, and that of the proposed Federal territory averages 1,200 feet.

That is about the altitude of Tooma.

On this subject the evidence of the witness above quoted, Mr. Barton, went to show that the pretensions of Wellington to possess the Seat of Government depend mainly on the construction of the railway from Werris Creek, on the Northern line, to Wellington, and that, without that connexion, Wellington could not be considered accessible, so far as Brisbane is concerned - an objection which, in the opinion of the witness, is common to all the western sites; but that, if connected with Broken Hill and Werris Creek, Wellington would be a singularly central site, and would be very accessible to Adelaide, Brisbane, and Melbourne. On this head, he produced the annexed Tables and Report.

These figures have been used by quite a number of plagiarists without acknowledgment. I have read newspaper articles published in all the States in which they have been quoted, but in very few of those articles have they been used for the purpose of advocating the western sites. They were brought forward to show that this large area was adjacent to the railways that might run from Western Australia, via South Australia, from South Australia, and from Queensland, into New South Wales, were a line built right across from Werris Creek, say, to the western line touching either at Dubbo or Wellington, and going on to Canobolas, if honorable members pleased, or on further to Carcoar-Garland. The district is so centrally situated that, were lines constructed in a judicious fashion on the western side of the Blue Mountains, one could go from Queensland to Victoria without going to Sydney. When these lines have been constructed to Cobar and Broken Hill, via Wilcannia, one will be able to go from the other States right through to the Federal city without touching at either Melbourne or Sydney. We should have a city all to ourselves right in the centre of New South Wales, and people from Brisbane could run right through to the Federal city, cutting off some 90 or 100 miles by avoiding Sydney. I refer honorable members to the following "Table of distances from Wellington railway station to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and Newcastle by railway lines now in existence " : -


I specially direct the attention of honorable members who have .had so much to say upon the necessity of centrality to the following table of distances, because they will gather from it that we have here the most central part of the settled portion of the Commonwealth : -

Table of distance from Wellington railway station to Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and Newcastle, with proposed connexions from Cobar to Broken Hill and Wellington to Werris Creek : -


The Public Works Committee of New South Wales has recently held quite a number of sittings in that district, and they have reported that if a line is constructed from Werris Creek to the western line, it will open up magnificent country in the locality of Cobbora. I am happy to be able to say that this large district is also in my electorate. The electorate covers 10,000 square miles, and though I speak with some little modesty, I may say that I think it is really the finest district in New South Wales. All the lines to which I have referred are within easy reach of these magnificent agricultural districts. Cobbora has not yet been established as an agricultural district, simply through lack of railway communication. When a railway is constructed from Werris Creek across to the western line, it will bring the land in that district under settlement. I have already referred honorable members to the yields of crops grown. I have said that last .year, in one or two cases, the yield of wheat went up 'to as much .as 60 bushels an acre, and the average yield of the district was just upon 30 bushels to the acre. Throughout this district of mine there is grown the finest grain produced in the world. The Wellington flour secured the gold medal in London, and I mention that with some pride, because, although South Australia has hitherto always been the State which has produced the finest flour, this district secured the gold medal against even South Australia. All kinds of climate may be found in that wide district of the west. After passing the Blue Mountains there is a dip from 200 to 300 feet above the sea and up again to Canobolas, or, rather, to Orange - because Canobolas has an altitude of some 5,000 feet - to 3,000 feet. There is there to be found a magnificent climate and soil, and an abundant water supply. When I am talking to honorable members who are practical men, it is unnecessary to enter upon a long dissertation upon the possibilities of water conservation in a district in some parts of which there is a rainfall of 39 inches, and rivers running in all directions. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro smiles at this, but I am not speaking of Dalgety. I admit that the Snowy River is a magnificent river, but there are possibilities in the western district to which I refer which are not to be surpassed in any other part of Australia. I have heard honorable members ascend to poetry in describing some of the suggested sites ; but when one honorable member last night, in speaking about the western district, said it has not the undulations to be found in some other parts, I could not help thinking that Washington and St. Petersburg were established in swamps, and that Amsterdam was also established in a swamp, and that the Royal palace was built upon piles. I might refer honorable members to other great cities of the world that have been built on sites which are not to be compared with any of those in New South Wales which have been brought under the notice of the Committee. I am glad to see that the Postmaster-General approves of what I am saying. The honorable gentleman knows that the garden of Australia is to be found over the Blue Mountains, and that if honorable members desire to possess a Federal Capital which will do honour to the Commonwealth, they should establish it there.

Mr Mahon - Put it at Wellington ; that is the place for it.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The honorable gentleman's lungs are not too strong, and I say. that the atmosphere of Wellington would prolong his life by twenty years. We know that Mr. Cecil Rhodes had but one lung when he went out to South Africa with the proverbial half-crown in his pocket, and in time he became a millionaire, and his lung was healed, because he lived in a dry atmosphere, similar to that to be found on Mount Arthur and the" mountainous country around Wellington. I do not seriously propose that the Seat of Government shall be located at Wellington, but I have referred to the district round about that town in order to show what magnificent country would be adjacent tothe Federal Capital, if it were established on the Carcoar-Garland site. Major C. H. L. Barton, writing on this subject, said -

Keeping in view the all-important part that coal plays in maritime warfare and commercial intercourse with other nations, also the desirability of our chief coaling centres being as near as possible to the point where, in time of war, the Federal troops would be mobilized (viz., the Federal Capital), it is a matter of vital importance, in the consideration of the question of accessibility, that the Wellington proposed site is (viâ Werris Creek) only 272 miles from Newcastle, and 152 miles from Lithgow. Due con. sideration under this section must also be given to the fact that, under our present arrangement of Colonial Governments, the respective railway systems of the Colonies have been devised and constructed with a view to the development and advancement of each individual Colony ; but it is reasonable to conclude that Federated Australia will gradually merge these railway systems into one, and that the future extension of the main trunk lines will become a national undertaking.

I had no intention of speaking at such" length; but, in conclusion, I wish to say that the people of New South Wales ask this Parliament to establish the Seat of Government within the western district. That district is just beyond the 100-miles radius provided for in the Constitution. It possesses good land, so that it is likely' to become closely settled ; a magnificent water supply can be given to it; its climate is excellent ; and its selection would give general satisfaction to the people of the State. The Premier of New South Wales is now evincing considerable interest in this matter, and although it is quite possible that he may be routed at the poll, those who are likely to succeed him in office have pledged themselves to place the territory of which I am speaking at the disposal of the Federal Government for the establishment of the Seat of Government. All the Crown land known as the Church and School lands' within that district will be made available to us. Mr. Carruthers, who is likely to succeed Mr. Waddell as Premier of New South Wales, has stated that he would be willing to place at the disposal of the Federal Government the land to which I refer.

Mr Austin Chapman - Mr. Carruthers has said . that he is strongly in favour of the Federal Capital being established in the Monaro district.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - If the western site is not chosen, I shall be in favour of establishing the Seat of Government at Dalgety, because of the excellence of the land there, the magnificent climate of the district, its scenery, of which Mount Kosciusko is such a glorious feature, and the splendid water supply which can be obtained. Therefore, if the western site is rejected, I shall vote for the next best site, which, in my opinion, is the Dalgety site. That site is within about 100 miles of the coast, and would, I think, be accepted by the people of New South Wales in the event of the western site being rejected. But I shall support the western site so long as I consider that it has a chance of being selected. I do not wish to stand in the way of a settlement of the question. If the roots of the Commonwealth Administration are established in Melbourne, there will be great difficulty in transplanting them elsewhere.

Mr Fisher - Is the honorable member's only reason for wishing for the settlement of the question his fear of the influence of Melbourne?

Mr HENRY WILLIS - No ; but that is one of my reasons. I might keep honorable members here all night if I stated all my reasons. I would point out, however, that the Government now rent a number of buildings in various parts of Melbourne, and they are receiving propositions from various quarters for the renting of other buildings. The result will be that before very long the private individuals and companies concerned will be using all their influence to keep the Seat of Government in Melbourne, and the Ministry will have a very plausible argument for postponing its removal elsewhere, in the fact that they will have entered into leases, having many years to run, of buildings for which they pay very high rents. That reason will, of course, commend itself to honorable members who, on the ground of economy, allege that it is necessary to wait a few years before building Federal offices in a Capital of our own. I am opposed to the Seat of Government remaining in Melbourne, as I should be opposed to its being placed in Sydney, for several reasons, of which the influence of the local press over the Parliament is one of the chief, while the second is the advantage which is given. to the State in whose capital the Federal Parliament meets. At the present time the representatives of Victoria could, at a critical moment, be all brought to the House within about fifteen minutes, and distant States, such as Western Australia and Queensland, whose members have to reside in Melbourne almost permanently, are also well represented. But the representatives of South Australia and New South Wales, who go to their homes at week ends, cannot always be recalled in less time than some days. . Consequently Victoria has an advantage over New South Wales, which, in my opinion, is equal to an additional representation of three members; and she has a proportional advantage over South Australia. If -we had a Seat of Government of our own, however, none of the States would have an advantage over the others in this respect. In conclusion, I urge that the compact made at the Premiers' Conference with the Premier of New South Wales should be carried out, and the Seat of Government located within that State at a suitable site, as near as possible to the 100 miles radius of Sydney. I think that I have shown that the most suitable site available is at Lyndhurst, in the western district.

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